Propaganda And The U.S. Essay, Research Paper
Propaganda and the United States
That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoemaking and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse.
- “License of the Press” speech
Propaganda exists in every aspect of our lives. It is used in any form of persuasion, advertising, debate, etc. And it is also one of the oldest and most popular methods of psychological warfare that governments have used to build a sense of nationalism and recieve positive opinions from the public. Propaganda is a planned system that uses any form of public or massed-produced communication designed to affect the minds and emotions of a given group for a specific public purpose, whether military, economic, or political.# Propaganda is based on public opinion, which is a system of law emanating from the body of the people. It is the only check to the pernicious exercise of the power of the government. # Propaganda induces emotions on every level. It can make the victims of the propagandists feel simple emotions like fear, or complex emotions like pride or adventure; or other emotions such as self confidence, ambition, end even love. All human emotions have always provided propagandists with means of influence . Some particular emotions can even offer a stronger passage or channel for the propagandists to work with.
The history of governmental propaganda can be traced back to the
great minds of the first philosophers. For example, in ancient Greece, Plato and Aristotle practiced and taught propaganda. Plato s Republic uses simple methods of writing and discusses the directions to keep people loyal to the state. He was an advocate of censorship and protection of security of the government. Aristotle s Rhetoric was a better example of a classic method of propaganda and unrelated to government. He believed in speech and persuasion. He was only similar to Plato in that he taught his pupils to refuse the ideas of an opponent.#
During the Crusades, which was another time that was guided more by religion than philosophy, the people of opposing countries were riled by atrocious stories of their enemies and convinced to fight. And this took place in the religious wars of the Seventeenth Century, with the development of the printing press, the Protestants attacked the Catholic Jesuits by propagandizing lies to evoke hatred. And the Catholics fought back with the same method.
Propaganda has been used in every conflict and war since then. During the wars that the United States has been involved with, the government used propaganda In the same way as it has always been used: to drive it s people. The government used posters, leaflets, movies, radio broadcasts, and any other effective form of communication. Leaders of all governments alike have had to have skills in propagandizing situations. For example, Hitler was the German Workers Party s Chief of Propaganda before he took control. It was during that service he wrote his famous book, Mein Kampf. Also during World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt participated in a radio show called the Fire Side Chats. That s when he talked directly to the people across the country explaining the events that were taking place. He used persuasion to calm the people or bring about their anger or frustration to strengthen support for his political, economic, or foreign goals.
America s program of psychological warfare developed relatively slower than the other country s programs. But however slow it was, the American program was the most ruthless on the downplaying of its foe s. The U.S. propaganda program became strongest during the Cold War with the U.S.S.R. In the Department of the State s bulletin on March 12, 1951:
At the risk of oversimplifying, we can say that we have four chief objectives: (1) Exposing to the world, directly and indirectly, the truly reactionary, vicious and phony nature of Kremlin communism; (2) building up a spirit of unity, spunk, determination and confidence in all the nations of the free world; (3) inculcating in other peoples a readiness and desire to cooperate with America — by disproving Soviet lies about us and by making clear that we are a resolute, strong, and honest nation whose moral strength and physical strength can be counted on; (4) building, behind the Iron Curtain, psychological obstacles to further Kremlin
Then, in the Kiplinger Magazine, the Voice of America (an organization later defined) wrote to the Russians:
The Russian people are oppressed by the Soviet Government. Stalin is a scheming, sly man, with all the attributes of a Hitler or a Mussolini. Disaffection and restlessness are spreading through the Soviet Union and through her satellites like an indestructible fungus. Exploitation of the Russian people gets worse every passing day. The people cannot hope to improve themselves under their present regime. The Russian talk of peace is phony. The Soviet leaders want war, because war is the way of all dictatorship. The Kremlin has revived the Big Lie. The Kremlin discredits and distorts everything for it s own ulterior purposes. Imperialism is the keynote of Russian communism. The United Sates wants peace and will stand by the United Nations. But it is all through being seduced by the Soviet double talk and sugary promises. If necessary, the United Sates will fight. #
However shocking or foolhardy that statement was, it was the popular view of the Soviet government by the people of the U.S.
During the Cold War, the U.S. Government found legal ways to restricted and control most of the ways that the public received information. The Congress created the Office of International Information (OII) which was divided into three divisions: the International Motion Picture Division (IMP), the International Broadcasting Division (IBD– The Voice of America ), and the International Press and Publications Division (INP).
The IMP initiates, plans and develops motion picture projects so that they depicted various phases of life in America. The INP offers effective ways of portraying the American people, foreign and domestically. Then, the IBD prepares a daily news file from the news services for translation and adaption. It supplements this news file with analyses and interpretations of the news, talks, and editorial roundups from the press of the nation. #
After those organizations succeeded, the government attempted and discovered more ways to limit the media s resource to government information. They began to practice the use of classification. They would withhold information from the public by granting higher authoritative individuals with privilege, thus deeming files and news as Classified. Another way the president was able to keep information secret was by invoking the executive privilege to deny information, even to congress. These are loopholes in the Freedom of Information Law, which says that federal agencies, when requested, shall give out information in the public domain. So any citizen is
supposed to have access to a great amount of information. Other loopholes stated are:
The act specifically exempts foreign policy data which the government feels should be kept secret, inter-governmental communications and similar kinds of information.
The exemption clauses are often interpreted so broadly that almost any data
can be kept from the new media and thus the public. The Foreign Operations and Government Information Subcommittee of the House reports that executive agencies tend to suppress even routine information because their personnel want to protect their jobs. #
The government kept many things form the media and propagandized the rest of the information. Nixon lied about the troops we had in Laos, and Kennedy lied about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Dealing with the Cuban Missile crisis, a statement sent out by the Defense department read:
A pentagon spokesman denied tonight that any alert has been ordered or that any emergency military measures have been set in motion against Communist-ruled Cuba. Further, the spokesman said, the Pentagon has no information indicating the presence of offensive weapons in Cuba. #
The first sentence was technically true, but the second was not. Some of the Soviet missiles were operational and that meant that almost the full body of the United States was vulnerable to a sudden strike.#
Another way that the government entered the public s lives with hopes of persuading the U.S. to hold hatred for the Soviet Union was to break into the pop culture. They did that by saturating the American cause into the movies. Films were used excessively to portray the armed forces as glorious and proud. The film is the
nearest equivalent to direct observation and actual experience. # The films that were produced illustrated the U.S. with great power in the government, people, and showed the exalted amount of intelligence that we held. Some films showed people participating in elections and taking part in matters of public concern. Other films depicted the American individual as strong, patriotic, and heroic.
Throughout the many years of the Cold War, an American protagonist, individual or group, was in a conflict against an antagonist that was larger and overpowering. That was the most popular plot in the time of war or conflict because it gave people an escape from the present situation while offering a fantastical story of triumph and hope. Movies like the Star Wars Trilogy is a great example of the popular plot. Outside of the popular plot was movies that advertised the governments attempts at the conflict with the Soviet Union. Other films tried to obtain respect for other programs that the U.S. was using to fight the Soviet Union. For Example, Films like Explorers and The Right Stuff publicized the space race and attempted to gain support
for NASA and the space program.
The greatest and most obvious movie that directly took a position against the Soviet Union was Rocky IV. In 1985 this movie was a movie made that displayed the attitudes and fears that Americans had to the Soviet Union. The movie was fairly superficial and it had some flaws, but it did closely represent the feelings of the Cold War era. What made this movie so great is that it captured our fears and hopes all at the same time. This movie was a success because by watching this movie we were in our own way fighting against our Russian adversaries. As far as the historical accuracy goes we must remember that this is just a movie. As with all the ROCKY movies the boxing matches go on far longer than they would in real life. In this movie we saw the Soviet Training system as a finely regimented and scientific endeavor. According to Soviet sports training books I have read the kinds of training depicted in the movie may very well be accurate. There are only two things that may be a stretch. The first is the use of sparring partners by Drago. The movie depicts Drago pummeling every one of his partners sending them to the canvas spitting up blood. This of course doesn’t happen in real life-sparring partners are partners not punching bags. The second thing about Drago’s training that is questionable is his use of steroids in the movie. Contrary to popular belief this was not a wide spread practice and in fact it was condemned by the government. Any athlete who was caught doing steroids or any coach who distributed them were eliminated from the sports program. Soviet scientists and trainers knew that the use of steroids only provided a quick boost in strength, and that continued use of them would cause extensive injuries to the athlete. In short the athlete would be injured so much that he would have been able to train harder and achieve maximum performance without the drugs. The scene is relevant in the context that we all thought the Soviets were taking superior drugs thus adding to our fear of them. This movie definitely displayed our thoughts and emotions dealing with the Cold War right up to the very end. Our sentiments were captured exactly when after the fight rocky said, “Tonight you had two people killing eachother…but I guess that’s better than 20 million”.
Propaganda exists in every aspect of our lives. It is used in any form of persuasion, advertising, debate, etsc. But, it is one of the oldest and most popular method of psychological warfare that governments have used to build a sense of nationalism and create positive opinions for it s people. The government has done whatever it can to be able to keep information from the public and has fabricated numerous lies to protect itself. The public has endured this disrespect by the government for years, and they haven t changed from what we know. But what do we know?
Summers, Robert E. America s Weapons of Psychological Warfare (New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1951)
Mitchell, Malcom G. Propaganda, Polls, and Public Opinion: Are People Manipulated? (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.)
Markel, Lester. What You Don t Know Can Hurt You: A Study of Public Opinion and Public Emotion (Washington D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1972)
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